ⓘ Virtual airline (economics)


ⓘ Virtual airline (economics)

In economics, a virtual airline is an airline that has outsourced as many possible operational and business functions as it can, but still maintains effective control of its core business. Such an airline focuses on operating a network of air services, and outsourcing non-core activities to other organizations. Contracting out services within the aviation industry has reportedly become so common that many carriers could be classed as having features of a virtual airline, although it is arguable whether any current carriers meet a strict definition of the term.

The term is also used to describe travel companies and ticket agencies that market themselves as airlines, but are unlicensed and with flights undertaken by licensed operators, often in the livery of the virtual airline.


1. Origins

Virtual airlines originated following the drastic changes brought about by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978. During the hyper-competitive years immediately following deregulation, major airlines found it increasingly unprofitable to compete against start-up carriers on many routes they currently served. Instead of forfeiting the routes entirely, the larger carriers often made marketing arrangements with smaller airlines to fly under the "banner", or aircraft livery, of the larger airline. These regional airlines, mimicking the well known major airlines in adverts and purporting to make connections as seamless as possible, soon abandoned their own local service routes. In most cases, the regional airlines found it more profitable to serve the mainline hubs as a feeder operation rather than operate on their own.


2. List of virtual airlines


  • Trawel Fly defunct
  • Krohn Air defunct
  • Snowbird Airlines defunct
  • Air Norway defunct
  • Teddy Air defunct
  • Soder Airlines defunct
  • Color Air defunct
  • FlyNonstop defunct
  • Manx2 defunct
  • Level
  • Evolavia defunct
  • Smartwings
  • Citywing defunct
  • Spanjet defunct
  • Vildanden defunct
  • Alsie Express
  • BRA
  • Air Croatia defunct

With mainline-type equipment

  • Midwest defunct
  • SkyValue defunct
  • Western defunct
  • Roots Air defunct
  • Amazon Air
  • Hooters Air defunct
  • Greyhound Air defunct
  • Direct Air defunct
  • Tahoe Air defunct
  • Peoplexpress defunct
  • Cal Jet Air defunct

With regional-type equipment

  • Ultimate Air Shuttle
  • OneJet defunct
  • Southern Skyways
  • Air Canada Express
  • Delta Connection
  • Taos Air
  • Chalks Ocean Airways Post Flight 101 defunct
  • Go! defunct
  • United Express
  • Ravn Connect defunct
  • Ravn Alaska
  • Buzz defunct
  • Blade
  • NewLeaf defunct
  • Go!Express defunct
  • JetSuiteX
  • American Eagle
  • Branson Air Express defunct
  • Delta Shuttle